I know what you’re thinking. Believe me, I thought it too. It’s wrong on so many levels. You can’t have that creamy, cheesy vodka sauce reminiscent of your favorite Italian restaurant without some good old dairy. And, any pasta vodka that isn’t creamy and cheesy is clearly NOT worth your time. Right? Actually, wrong. Very wrong.
My history with pasta vodka is a long love affair. I order it every chance that I get where I can creatively justify the calories because, let’s be honest, it’s clearly not the healthiest option on the menu. But, I do love me some pasta vodka. My husband and I went to a restaurant called Mimmo’s for many years in Wharton, NJ. It was a tiny place with tables shoved into it, poor lighting and silk plants that looked more like they belonged in your grandmother’s living room than in a restaurant. Every time we went, we knew it would be an hours long ordeal. The waitress was the wife of the chef and would talk to us about calamari and prosciutto. She warned us that everything was made from scratch and would be cooked to order. We knew and we accepted our fate…all for the pasta vodka. Holy lord. That pasta vodka was a force unto itself. The perfect consistency, the way it coated the pasta perfectly inside each little groove, the creamy, cheesy, dreaminess of it all. Well, if you couldn’t tell already, my love affair with pasta vodka is strong. When Mimmo’s closed, I died a little inside. I knew I would never be able to recreate that pasta vodka. To add insult to injury, my husband suffered through several bouts of colitis over the years and has had to cut dairy and gluten out of his diet.
I am salty about it all. However, I think I have found the answer to all of my prayers. This pasta vodka recipe is on point and does not use gluten or dairy to get that creaminess. Spoiler alert — the creaminess comes from cashews and cashew milk! Who would’ve thought?
Making this recipe involves some time, some love and some good equipment. When you begin, you roast 2 lbs. of cherry tomatoes. I used Whole Foods organic cherry tomatoes for this recipe, but I am waiting for the onslaught of tomatoes coming from my father’s garden in August to make this recipe again. It will be killer with homegrown tomatoes. I would recommend investing in a good blender or food processor. I use a Vitamix blender that I’ve had for several years and its a beast. It processes all of the seeds and skins by grinding them to a pulp for your sauce. Not only does this create a thicker, richer sauce, it also limits digestion issues for my husband who is not supposed to eat vegetable seeds and skin as part of his diet. I also used organic sweet potato pasta (purchased at Whole Foods) and gluten free breadcrumbs on the chicken cutlets that I prepared previously. All of the herbs used for this recipe came from my herb box. Keeping it local! Without further adieu, here it is…Gluten-Free, Dairy Free Pasta Vodka as adapted from GoDairyFree.com’s Creamy Roasted Tomato Vodka Sauce with Penne.
Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pasta Vodka Recipe
- 2 lbs cherry tomatoes (preferably homegrown or organic)
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves or 1-2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 shallot minced
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (I left this out for my husband’s dietary needs)
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 1/2 raw cashew pieces
- 1 cup cashew milk
- 4-5 basil leaves
- 1 cup porcini or shitake mushrooms (if desired)
- Sweet potato pasta (or any gluten free variety)
- Leftover Chicken Cutlets or Grilled Chicken, sliced into strips (breading made with gluten free bread crumbs)
- Pecorino Cheese (if you don’t care about being dairy free)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and toss the clean tomatoes with 1-2 T of olive oil and 1 tsp salt. If you’re using whole garlic cloves, peel and place them on the sheet as well. Roast these ingredients for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes begin to pop and have brown spots on their skins.
- Remove the tomatoes from the oven and allow them to cool a bit. Add all of the tomato mixture to the blender or food processor. Squeeze in garlic paste if you’re using it at this point and add 1/2 tsp of salt. Puree until smooth and leave in the processor or blender.
- Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute without burning. Add red pepper flakes (if you’re using them) and saute another 30 seconds.
- 5. Remove the skillet from heat. Whisk in the tomato puree and vodka. Return the skillet to heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes.
- If you’re making gluten free pasta, set your pasta water to boil. If you’re using the sweet potato spaghetti, follow the instructions on the package. I steamed the sweet potato spaghetti for a minute on the stove and then roasted it on a sheet pan in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
- In another skillet, heat 2 T of olive oil until hot. Add 1 cup of shitake or sliced porcini mushrooms to the skillet along with salt and pepper. Saute the mushrooms until fully browned.
- While the sauce is simmering, clean out your food processor or blender. Add the raw cashew and grind them until they become a powder. Add the cashew milk and 1/2 tsp of salt to the powder and blend until smooth and creamy. You may need to help the mixture along by stopping your food processor or blender to make sure that everything is well-combined. If desired, run your mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any larger nuts (you will not have to do this if you’re using a Vitamix).
- Whisk the cream sauce into the tomato sauce and continue to simmer for a few minutes. The sauce will begin to thicken. Add more cashew milk if needed to thin the sauce. Also, taste test to see if additional seasoning is needed
- Drain your pasta or remove the sweet potato spaghetti from the oven. Add the pasta directly to the sauce in the skillet on low heat. Using a pair of tongs, slowly toss the pasta and sauce together until the pasta is well-coated.
- Warm your chicken cutlets and slice them into strips to be used as a topping.
- Plate your pasta in individual bowls and top with the mushrooms and chicken. Finish it off with fresh basil and some pecorino cheese (if you don’t care about being dairy free).
This dish never fails to satisfy my cravings for the creamy versions of pasta vodka from my past. Even the hubby likes and it does not bother his sensitive stomach. Mangia 🙂